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Poster: cosmic charlie dupree Date: Aug 4, 2009 2:28pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Wall of Sound question

The Wall of Sound seems to get justified praise for the clarity of sound and power it delivered. Not having experienced it first hand, all I have to go by is what I can hear in recordings, and what I read from others’ first-hand accounts. Apparently soundboard recordings do not capture the Wall’s impact, and if you then turn to aud’s obviously something of the clarity is lost.

Given that it was 35 years ago, surely audio technology has improved on many (though probably not all) dimensions. I’m curious whether today’s big headlining acts like are now able to deliver the same kind of sound quality that the Wall enabled, but with considerably less height, girth, weight, & expense. Or perhaps today’s acts apply the 80/20 rule, and figure that most audience members don’t care enough to warrant the extra expense & hassle of delivering such high quality audio.

I’m inclined to believe the glowing accounts of the Wall’s sound, but I would be curious whether, under a blind taste-test type of setting, people could objectively hear superb sound quality in 1974 Wall compared to today’s state of the art concert systems. No way to conduct such a test, but you see what I’m driving at. I’m guessing that the likes of Earl & Monte can help me get my head screwed on straight here...

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Poster: Capt. Cook Date: Aug 4, 2009 4:02pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Read Bear's notes regarding recording and sound systems on the DP #36 from the Spectrum. His liner notes are critical to understanding his recording technique. He claims that the two-column array speaker system commonly used by music acts today (and then) actually cancels signals out in the great arenas and halls. producing what he calls a sort of sonic mud. He claims a single array speaker system, (which you could place any where in the arena, it would not matter to the listener!!!) much like the wall of sound, is the most effecient way to reproduce live sound. Each instrument has its own set of arrays.

Also, his placement of mics on the drums is very much like you would mic a jazz kit, overhead mics to catch the ambience of the drum sound, not close mic'd which he feels does not allow the drum head to breathe. Also, on the two drummers sets he would use 4 mics only - Billy's bass drum combined with Micky's overhead in one channel, and micky's bass drum combined with billy's overhead in the other channel. A great way to blend the two kits...

Read the notes. Classic stuff on sound reproduction

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Poster: cosmic charlie dupree Date: Aug 4, 2009 4:22pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Thanks Captain! Interesting point about the single arrays (not that I understand the technology of it) delivering better individual instrument sounds. I could see how that might sound more pure than the blended sound, and I guess you can't hear that when you're listening to a '74 recording on a 2-speaker system. I appreciated the tidbit about the drum mics too - now I guess I'll need to pickup a copy of DP#36 to read the full liners. Spare change, anyone? :-)

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Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Aug 5, 2009 11:58pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

My OS-based (win_XP) hard drive just blew up late last week. I'm slowly Recovering from Zero, and wasting lots of time. Sucks!

Some math backround about sound levels:
a) sound pressure level
b) sound pressure intensity

Above math defines sound pressure levels (SPL). The SPL drops off inversely to the distance from the PA sound source, or the wall of sound. Hence the PA's spatial array and speaker placement is also a SPL factor. Who's done the math? I have not compared mathematical acoustical models of the Wall of Sound (WOS) to a "modern-day PA system." Either way, all audio sources should be optimally set up and aligned perfectly. They get sent as audio signals to their respective channels. Everything is ready for mixing and amplifying. The PA system array will project these audio sounds from its respective speakers and placements. Try to imagine in your mind's eye that the PA system is an high-end audio projector. Which system do you think will sound better to a human ear? To me there's no comparison. It's like night and day. How can a modern-day PA system - say, 2 dinky PA towers - come even close to the sound fidelity ("fullness") of the wall of sound? Listening to tapes from old recordings and new recordings may or may not help you understand everything clearly.

Here's the theory for the vocal mic pairs used in the evolving prototype WOS (1973) and the WOS (1974). They are chosen and used in anti-phased (opposite-phased) mic pairs, spread 60 mm apart, and setup for feedback cancellation. Ron Wickersham desribes in detail many of these parameters. I can show you how simple the wiring and hookup configuration is. Balanced audio lines are used to create the differential signals that get summed together to eliminate feedback. Here's how to connect them using XLR connectors.

540px-XLR_pinouts.svg.png

Pin 1 is always chassis "ground" or the cable shield. The normal-phased mics get wired with pin 2 as "hot" signal and pin 3 as "cold" signal. The opposite-phased mics get wired with pin 2 as "cold" signal and pin 3 as "hot" signal. Normally the sound signals (feedback from the WOS) are input at exactly the same level into both mics. These mic signals then get summed together. The result is always zero signal. You are adding together equal and opposite signals. This always causes signal cancellation. Each vocalist must "eat" just one mic only when singing into his/her vocal mic. This vocal source is now a single mic output, and does not get cancelled out. But when the singer moves 12 inches away and sings for example, it is almost all cancelling out. It can be tricky to use and learning how to eat just one mic. The sound crew also need time getting used to it.

anti-phased mic pairs are shown close-up w/ Bob and Phil eating vocal mics from RFK Stadium in 1973
here's the audio stream of incredible quality sound from my AUD.fob tapes for RFK Stadium — June 10, 1973
19730610_2046.jpg



This post was modified by dead-head_Monte on 2009-08-06 06:58:40

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Poster: cosmic charlie dupree Date: Aug 6, 2009 2:41pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Thanks a ton, Monte! Sure good to have you as a regular contributor here....

After reading your perspective, it seems the jury is split between those believing in the superiority of the WOS compared to today's systems, and those who think today's systems outperform the WOS.

The link you provided is excellent - fascinating sketch. While I haven't experienced the sound, a few concepts make sense when I read them. 1) "Intermodulation distortion between instruments is of course non-existant." I could see how it's impossible to deliver the same clarity/purity of each instrument when they're coming through the same speaker, so this makes intuitive sense. 2) "The Grateful Dead system with its single source for each instrument projects clear sound farther back into these cavernous nightmares, and since the sound from each instrument comes from a different direction, the echoes are more diffuse and therefore less objectionable." This one is harder to visualize, but the concept also seems plausible.

I think I need to give the auds from 73/74 more listening, since it may be the closest I can get. I'll start by grabbing your shows at home tonight. Cheers!

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Poster: whirlwind dreamer 65-95 Date: Aug 4, 2009 4:47pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

this link might have some info your lookin for ccd.> http://dozin.com/danhealy/house.htm

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Poster: cosmic charlie dupree Date: Aug 4, 2009 5:01pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

very cool read. Thanks!

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Poster: headgdhead Date: Aug 5, 2009 3:36pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

My first show was a WOS show at the acousticly challenged old Boston Garden. Nobody, I mean N O B O D Y, made the Garden sound the way it did that night. The sound clarity and seperation were just incredible. Garcia had problems with a couple of speakers throughout the first set and you could actually hear them troubleshooting the individual speakers while the band kept playing on. Eventually the crew came out and replaced the offenders which were located about 15' up in the middle of the stack on stage right. Garcias runs seemed to float on the air. Phils bass was like a wave machine. 6/28/74 check it out on Dick's Picks 12.

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Poster: cosmic charlie dupree Date: Aug 6, 2009 2:56pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Thanks for the insightful personal account. Sounds like it was "electrifying"!

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Poster: direwolf0701 Date: Aug 4, 2009 2:43pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

i would imagine that 35 years worth of technological upgrades in soundsystems could fit the sonic deliverance of the Wall into a unit the size of an acorn today.


(hyperbole intended)

i wasnt there, but just saw Diana Krall at Tanglewood on July 4th, the sound system appeared quite small, yet she sounded like she was sitting right next to me along with each individual instrument. (jawdropping concert btw)


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Poster: mcgannahan Date: Aug 4, 2009 2:57pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Grateful Dead Wall of Sound Specs
26,400 watts of continuous power via 44 amplifiers
586 JBL loudspeakers (15", 12" and 5")
54 Electrovoice tweeters
75 tons in weight (approximately)

who cared more about how they sounded to the audience than the dead? hell, they almost went broke trying to maintain it. i imagine the systems of today sound better and are more practical.

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Poster: spacedface Date: Aug 4, 2009 5:37pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

You might check out the evolution of sound systems by Meyer Sound:

http://www.meyersound.com/news/press/prosnd3.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Meyer_%28audio_engineer%29

also UltraSound
http://www.meyersound.com/remember_dr_don/index.php

I wish I'da kept that GD gear book!

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Poster: Earl B. Powell Date: Aug 4, 2009 5:03pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Dire: Congrats on the Diana Krall show...Mrs Costello is an awesome pianist and jazz singer. I like that she doesn't use a pick up band, 'cause her band is awesome. I've got a great SBD of a show in St. Petersburg FL that's excellent and her DVD from Paris has been playing on the Ovation Network.

I might also mention she is H-O-T.

Photobucket

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Poster: Earl B. Powell Date: Aug 4, 2009 5:12pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

....But not this hot baayyybeee....

Photobucket

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Poster: direwolf0701 Date: Aug 4, 2009 9:15pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

gotta agree she is a fine looking woman and a great sexy smoky singing voice to go along with it. nice pic :)

did you get that sdb off of any of the torrent sites?? would love to d/l one if you remember which.

concert was absolutely unreal!!! especially with some A+ fireworks after the show. - first time i have seen her - my wife is a huge huge fan of hers. and you are DAMN right about her band (who i know very little about, but was very impressed to say the least)

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Poster: Styrofoam Cueball Date: Aug 4, 2009 6:56pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Facially, she looks a bit like that other Elvis...

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Poster: cosmic charlie dupree Date: Aug 4, 2009 2:54pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Good to "hear" that Krall sounded perfect. I figured I might be labeled an ignoramus for even asking the question. Obviously the Grateful Dead (not known to skimp on sound quality) migrated away from the Wall, and still delivered great sound, but my sense from others' personal accounts is that something was lost when they abandoned that system.

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Poster: direwolf0701 Date: Aug 4, 2009 3:11pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

i by NO means meant to imply that it was an ignorant question - my apologies if what i wrote came across as such. my hyperbole was not intended to be condescending. (there is oftentimes a failing of vocal inflection within the written word)

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Poster: cosmic charlie dupree Date: Aug 4, 2009 3:20pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Nope, not taken as an insult! I was actually saying I was relieved that at least you, the first responder, didn't give me a hard time about asking the question. Phew - glad that's resolved! OK, any more niceties and WT may want to add us to the "nice guy" list.

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Poster: direwolf0701 Date: Aug 4, 2009 3:33pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

"any more niceties and WT may want to add us to the "nice guy" list. "


if he does, i say we 'deck him' at our first opportunity. that incorrigible old twit ;)

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Poster: Earl B. Powell Date: Aug 4, 2009 4:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

There are numerous good sites with info on the Wall, but only answer the question about the wall, not the aftermath. there were surely important discoveries when designing, assembling and using the wall.

http://tinyurl.com/3cms8a

One was the noise canceling microphones they had to use to prevent feedback. With all sound coming from behind, feedback would have occurred at very low levels without some kind of gimmickry and Owsley developed a pair of microphones which somehow eliminated the feedback by one microphone canceling a certain array of signals from the other. Unfortunately, this new technology also canceled a number of naturally occurring frequencies which made the vocals sound overly compressed. By my ear, and based on the circulating boards for WOS shows, it wasn't bad.

Another discovery during the design phase was that the standard plywood used to house the PA speakers acted like a balloon, expanding when overloaded with sound, especially bottom end. So instead of projecting sound immediately from the cabinet face, it was slightly delayed compared to other smaller cabinets and muddied the whole thing up...to a degree. To overcome this issue the crew found a source for 17 ply premium grade plywood which did not flex under sound pressures. These cabinets are still being built today by "Hard Truckers."

Ultimately the WOS worked, but was too expensive to carry on during the tours...including labor and freight rates. The WOS was the primary reason for the 1975 hiatus. The band was legendary for not firing anyone, waited throughout the hiatus for enough of the crew to find work elsewhere before any thoughts of resuming a tour schedule.

After putting the WOS to rest, Healy became larger and larger in terms of sonic development. By that time other bands and sound companies had a growing enthusiasm for high quality concert audio. Hanging trapeze arrays with left, right and center stacks suspended by cables became popular and far fewer speakers were required since the mass of the crowd did not interfere with projection. Hall echo was minimized by delaying certain frequencies of sound. In outdoor venues there would be tower delays that were sometimes as long as 8 seconds due to their distance from the stage.

Anyway, the Dead played a huge roll in the evolution of live sound, but mostly up to and including the Wall of Sound. I recommend getting Blair Jackson's Grateful Gear book. It really goes into a lot of detail, but is also in historic context as the band evolves. Cheap on Ebay or Amazon.

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Poster: cosmic charlie dupree Date: Aug 5, 2009 7:08am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Wall of Sound question

Thanks for your reply Earl; I knew you had a wealth of knowledge in this area. I just watched the GD Movie bonus disc last weekend, and Billy & Donna talk about the 2 cancelling mics, and how close the vocalists had to be to the mics, but that it worked.

I didn't realize that the WOS was the main reason for the 75 hiatus; I had thought it was simply due to tour exhaustion and to create space for new ideas. Maybe if I were further along in the McNally book I would already know that. Still in my GD101 class, so to speak.